Why didn't the Butler do it?

James Bond producers have slammed reports that they are planning to replace Pierce Brosnan with unknown Scottish actor Gerard Butler. Butler himself was said to have fueled the speculation by claiming he is to be the next 007. A spokesman for Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, says, "It just isn't true and I wish these rumors would stop. We have been inundated with calls all week, Pierce Brosnan will play James Bond in the forthcoming production and for the foreseeable future."

It seemed Butler’s meteoric rise was complete when news broke he was to inherit James Bond’s licence to kill. Butler appeared to confirm the rumours on television, only to have a spokeswoman for the producers deny them. An over-eager press may have missed the joke, for what Butler said was: "I’ve chatted with Barbara Broccoli and she knows that I’ll only do it if Ann Widdecombe can be my Bond girl."

It was a joke... 

Our 'just for fun' next James Bond poll now (at the time of writing) stands at 1893 votes. In first place by some considerable distance with 57.2% is the Scottish actor Gerard Butler. Whatever fan pages he has (and he seems to have more devoted sites than most actors) they have rallied to his support in our small eccentric corner of the internet. Nothing new for Butler. If any actor was a 'fan' favourite to replace Pierce Brosnan it was Gerry Butler.

Believe it or not Butler's acting career began when he was approached in a London coffee shop by (Octopussy!) actor Steven Berkoff who gave him a stage role in the play Coriolanus. Butler decided to give up law school for acting. He was later cast as Ewan McGregor's character Renton in the stage adaptation of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting (1996). His debut film role was as Billy Connolly's younger brother in the (Judi Dench!) film Mrs. Brown (1997).

His career continued with minor roles in the (James Bond!) adventure Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Russell Mulcahy's Tale of the Mummy (1998). The 1999 British indie film One More Kiss saw Butler give a superb low-key performance as a small-town man coping with the terminal illness of an old flame. In 2000, Butler was cast in his breakthrough roles, the first being Attila the Hun in the USA TV movie Attila (2001). Producers of the mini-series wanted a known actor to play the part but kept coming back to Gerard Butler's screen tests and decided that he was their man. He had to lose his thick Glaswegian accent but adapted. Around the time Attila was being filmed, casting was in progress for Wes Craven's new take on the Dracula legacy. The ambitious Butler sent them a clip of his portrayal of Attila.

"For James Bond I'd pick Gerard Butler, who has an impish quality hiding behind his sexiness." Marcia Ross (senior vp casting Disney Studios)

Evidently they liked it because Dracula 2000  was cast in the form of Gerard Butler. Producers of Attila (2001) (TV), thinking that his big screen role might help with the Attila ratings, managed to finish up a little early so that he could get to work on Dracula 2000. Attila (2001)(TV) ended up being the 2nd highest rated mini-series ever. Dracula 2000 was a terrible film but Butler's charisma was evident and he developed quite a fan base with a substantial female following.

Supporting roles in big-budget films followed. Supporting Christian Bale in Reign of Fire (2002) as Creedy and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) as Terry Sheridan alongside Angelina Jolie. His role as Andre Marek in the (awful) big screen adaptation of Michael Crichton's novel Timeline (2003) won him plaudits as a potential star and praise for once again standing out in a subpar film. Butler played an archaeologist who was sent back in time with a team of students to rescue a colleague.

He appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Phantom of the Opera (2004), portraying the title character in the adaptation of the stage musical. Joel Schumacher, equally famous for making the ubiquitous Colin Farrel a star and directing Batman and Robin (let's not be too harsh though, I still have fond memories of Lost Boys) handpicked Butler much to the annoyance of Michael Crawford devotes ( anyone?) but the film wasn't a major hit and Butler's profile wasn't enhanced by wearing a mask. Other projects included The Miracle Match (aka The Game of Their Lives) (2005) and Beowulf & Grendel (2005). 

Gerard Butler. I had a crush on him way back when he played Attila (in 2000, I think). I loved him in Phantom and thought he should have been the next James Bond... But have you seen him recently?? One word: GORGEOUS! I mean 300 will be AMAZING visually, but I am going to see it on IMAX just to see Gerard Butler half-naked in full screen glory! Hubba, Hubba!!! (Cinematical poster)

In 2005 the part of James Bond was recast for the upcoming Casino Royale. A tougher Bond was the order of the day. One who would seem less anachronistic in the Jason Bourne era. This Bond (who was 28 according to Paul Haggis at one stage) would be younger and more reckless. More dangerous to use a cliche. If Henry Cavill and co looked like they were barely old enough to shave in the screentests (and sources have suggested this) then at 35 years of age Butler seemed to have landed in the right place at the right time. 6'2, handsome, charismatic. Modern, not exactly a limp-wristed shaving-gel mannequin. And tellingly Butler was very popular amongst Bond fans. He seemed like a very good person to cast as the new James Bond. A no-brainer.

I still don't understand why they couldn't have cast Gerard Butler and still made the exact film they've just completed. I know some fans and Eon themselves want a tougher Bond and a more serious film (I'm completely open to that myself) but why they had to cast such an unconventional 007 is beyond me. (AP AJB)

Butler's latest film is 300, an adaptation of the graphic novel by Frank Miller about the Battle of Thermopylae. The film is directed by Zack Snyder with Frank Miller attached as an executive producer and consultant, and was shot mostly with bluescreen to mimic the original comic book work. The film may mark the transition of Butler from potential star to bona fide one. Snyder's remake of the great George A Romero's Dawn Of The Dead bordered on the pointless but it did showcase flashes of an inventive and talented director. To land a major part in such a big film is a signal that Butler has arrived. Rumours of a part for Butler in the upcoming Snyder take on Alan Moore's peerless Watchmen graphic novel also suggest he is here to stay.

I'm supporting Craig, but I still wish they would have cast Gerry Butler. (Bon-San Cbn)

So where was Butler in the Casino Royale shake-up? He didn't seem to feature in the round of screentests and seemed conspicuous by his absence. Wouldn't a Butler screentest have given the studio some serious food for thought? Afterall Butler won several of his earlier roles by impressing in tests. I'm not sure Butler would have fitted a young rookie Bond brief perfectly but then neither did Daniel Craig. The fact that Butler is YOUNGER than Daniel Craig makes the whole thing more mysterious. Did the BUTLER IS NEW BOND! headlines of 2000 forever put him in Eon's black book? ("I 'ate you Butler!" as Blakey used to say in On The Buses) We'll probably never know. Butler will be in his early to mid forties when the part comes around again but I'll doubt he'll feature. He won't need Bond then and the producers for whatever reason never wanted him. 2005 was the perfect time for him to become James Bond but it looks like it wasn't to be.

I have made it fairly clear that Butler is my No 1 contender. I could give a hundred reasons why he would make a great James Bond, but the bottom line for me was that I saw him in a movie and thought 'Thats him. Thats my Bond!' and that is something you can't quantify. (Lady Rose AJB)

- Michael Cooper 

c 2006 Alternative 007